The Picture Book Buzz

Bird Count - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Every year, I look forward to The Cornell Lab's Feeder Watch citizen science project. I move my laptop into the kitchen for a bit every day, so I can watch and record the number and species of the birds that come through my yard from November to April. I have records from 1996 and it is amazing what has changed. For instance, we no longer get cedar waxwings or quail. Though, I have been able to document (with photos) that I get both song sparrows and fox sparrows in my yard.

It's fun to watch them interact with each other and my yard. To watch birds who typically don't perch, perching on my suet feeders. And to see which birds will overwinter each year. I could go on and on and on . . . but you all came to hear about a book.

So, it should be no surprise, especially to my friends (and critique group) who've seen me distracted by any/every bird, that this week's #PPBF post is the latest book about the Audubon's Christmas Bird Count. (Be sure to check out Heidi Stemple's Counting Birds and Lisa Amstutz's Finding a Dove for Gramps).

Bird Count

Author: Susan Edwards Richmond

Illustrator: Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company (2019)

Ages: 4-8

Fiction

Themes:

Bird watching, Christmas Bird Count, citizen science, and nature.

Synopsis:

A young girl eagerly identifies and counts the birds she observes around her town during the New England Christmas Bird Count.

Young Ava and her mother prepare to participate as “citizen scientists” in the Christmas Bird Count. She is excited when Big Al, the leader of their team, asks her to record the tally this year. Using her most important tools―her eyes and ears―and the birding ID techniques she’s learned, Ava eagerly identifies and counts the birds they observe on their assigned route around the town. At the end of the day, they meet up with the other teams in the area for a Christmas Bird Count party, where they combine their totals and share stories about their observations.

This informative story by author Susan Edwards Richmond, coupled with Stephanie Fizer Coleman’s charming depictions of birds in their winter habitats, is the perfect book to introduce young readers to birdwatching. The text offers simple explanations of the identification methods used by birdwatchers and clear descriptions of bird habitats, and a section in the back provides more information about the birds featured in the book and the Christmas Bird Count.

Opening Lines:

I shake Mom in the dark. "Wake up, sleepy Head! It's Bird Count Day."

One Sunday each winter we take part in a bird count census called the Christmas Bird Count. On this day, we go out and count every bird we see or hear.

What I like about this book:

What a great way to introduce the Christmas Bird Count and the rules that the citizen scientists need to follow to have their tallies help the scientists. In a great informational fiction format, the facts of the count (rules, supplies, dates, how to tally birds) are accurately and seamlessly woven into a fictional story of a dark-skinned young girl, her mother, and their team leader participating in the event.

Text © Susan Edwards Richmond, 2019. Image © Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2019.

Using their eyes and ears, the three set out to count and document as many species of birds as they can find, within their assigned area. Stephanie's inclusion of a ringed notebook tally down the recto (right hand side) of each spread, is pure genius. I love that Ava is old enough this year to keep the running tally. And how she explains why some of the birds couldn't be counted, how to record big numbers, and even taking the average of the number seen by the people in her group (and then circling it). This book is a great tool for teachers to use in a classroom (demonstrating how to correctly use base-ten hash marks) and for aspiring bird watchers to learn the rules and procedures before they participate in a count.

Text © Susan Edwards Richmond, 2019. Image © Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2019.

The beautiful digital illustrations team up with accurate descriptions of the habitats, behaviors, and vocalizations of the various birds making this a great introduction to birding wrapped up in a fun story. I love the ending scene when all the teams turn in their tally sheets.

The book reinforces the fact that everyone can make a difference; that "citizen scientists are ordinary people who do real science research." The author note explains why it is important for citizens across the world to help gather information for the scientists and provides a hint as to who was the inspiration for Ava'a team leader - Big Al. Additionally, the glossary provides information about each of the species of bird listed in the book.

I was glad to see it nominated for a Cybils award. This is a great book to inspire budding scientists or anyone interested in birds and as a mentor text for writers looking to integrate nonfiction into their fiction stories.

Resources:

- check out Susan Richmond's Teacher's Guide (https://peachtree-online.com/pdfs/TeachersGuides/BirdCountTG.pdf);

- participate, with your family, friends, or class, in the Christmas Bird Count (https://www.audubon.org/conservation/join-christmas-bird-count);

- *read the nonfiction Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends by Heidi Stemple and the informational fiction Finding a Dove for Gramps by Lisa Amstutz. Compare the different ways all three books tell the same story;

- make a bird feeder or two. Then watch and list all the birds that come to your feeder(s). Maybe participate in Cornell Labs' Feeder Watch Program (another citizen science bird count that lasts from Nov - April)

(https://happyhooligans.ca/32-homemade-bird-feeders/);

If you missed Susan Edwards Richmond's interview on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Upcoming Events:

Bird Count Launch Party at Silver Unicorn Books Saturday, October 5, 2019 11:00 AM 12:00 PM Come join the flock as Susan Edwards Richmond launches her debut children’s picture book, Bird Count! Silver Unicorn Books, located at 12 Spruce Street in West Acton, hosts the event, which will feature a reading, snacks, and fun activities about birds. Through Ava’s adventures, learn how you too can be a citizen scientist and learn to spot interesting birds in your own backyard.

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